Evolution Martial Arts Academy opened its doors just seven years ago in Whitby – and in 2015 it is celebrating the achievement of its first junior black belts.
The following five students selected to grade from the Whitby Academy all started as white belts and worked their way up to the black belt or Shodan test: Rhys Stapley – Junior Shodan, Rueben Mason – Junior Shodan, Jess Locker – Junior Shodan, Holly Mason – Junior Shodan, Marshell Kelly – Junior Shodan.
Head Instructor, James Cockill, with more than 30 years’ experience in the field, told the Gazette how the grading works and why it inspires his students to aim high.
“The system of grading through coloured belts allow students to improve by taking small steps leading to the top black accolade.
“To begin with, you have a couple of relatively straightforward years to attain your Purple Belt.
“Regular attendance, focus and a willingness to train hard and listen to your instructor will get you through.
“Then the going gets tough – the three brown belts place the emphasis firmly back on the student, their attitude and what they bring to each class.
“You have to really want to succeed. The instructor becomes more of a guide in your training, keeping you focused and on the right path.
“Motivation becomes a big part of training and at this level repetition is vital. However, this is where most will fail and drop out.”
James added that all students must pass a mock test before going for the real thing and out of the 22 who tried, only seven were deemed good enough and put through.
From that initial selection point through to taking the actual test, each student had to show increased focus and dedication to train with the Black Belt goal set firmly in their minds.
They also had to write an essay prior to the test date about what it would mean to be a black belt in terms of their past, present and future training. The black belt grading took place at Evolution’s full-time Academy in Darlington and all of the students passed with flying colours.
But this is not where it ends. Black belt or Shodan translates as beginning level so while this may seem to be the highest belt you can achieve, it is just a starting point. It proves you have the physical and mental toughness to continue your study ever further and higher within the Martial Arts.
James and fellow instructor Luke Cockill started their own training in Whitby and run these successful classes for all ages and abilities.